Friday, December 30, 2005

UCLA vs. California - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.11 UCLA Bruins (11-1, 1-0) take on the California Golden Bears (7-3, 1-0) in their second Pac-10 game at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday.

After a loss at Eastern Michigan to open the season, the Cal Bears went on a six game winning streak before losing to quality opponents in Kansas and DePaul.

In their Pac-10 opener against the USC Trojans on Thursday, the Bears edged the Trojans 62-58. Cal had led by 5 points with 16 seconds left in the game but then they allowed a 3-point FG and Cal's Leon Powe missed the front end of a one and one FT giving the Trojans a chance to tie the game, but USC was then called for traveling - preserving the win for Cal.

"We stayed together and had contributions from everybody," Powe said. "That's what we need on the road, especially against a team that was coming in that hot."

Cal is second in the conference in team scoring behind Washington. They have a big front line which is led by former Pac-10 freshman of the year Leon Powe (So 6'8 240) who is averaging 20.7 ppg on 52% shooting and 10.2 rpg. Powe is a tough low post player who gets to the free thow line often; however, Powe only shoots 60% from the FT line.

In addition to Powe, Cal starts DeVon Hardin (So 6'11 235) who scores 12.1 ppg and 7.4 rpg and bring in Rod Benson (Sr 6'10 220) off the bench.

On the perimeter, the Bears have good 3-point shooting - as a team they are shooting over 40% from behind the arc. Richard Midgley a senior guard ( 6'3, 190) averages 11.7 points and shoots 40% from 3PT, Ayinde Ubaka (Jr, 6'3, 200) averages 13.5 ppg and 38% from 3PT, and Omar Wilkes (So 6'4 185), a transfer from Kansas and son of former UCLA great Jamaal (Keith) Wilkes, is scoring 10.3 ppg and shooting 47% from 3PT.

Cal presents UCLA with the most difficult match-up in the Pac-10 with their big front line. In previous games when facing a dominant front court player, the Bruins have quickly doubled down in the low post forcing the player to either pass out or take a tough shot.

However doubling down on Powe may prove to be more difficult with Hardin or Benson in the game alongside him. UCLA coach Ben Howland will need to decide whether to double down or let his young Bruin front line play the Bears bigmen straight up.

Against Stanford, the Bruins were successful in doubling Matt Haryasz in the post, but in the second half Haryasz scored more easily when he played alongside 6'10 Peter Prowitt who provided Stanford another low post scoring threat and made it more difficult for the Bruins to double Haryasz as quickly as they did in the first half.

If the Bruins decide to play Cal's front line straight up they will need to have more healthy bodies available tomorrow.

Sophomore Lorenzo Mata and freshman Ryan Wright have been an efficient tandem in the five spot but they are inexperienced bigmen and are prone to fouling.

Certainly, the Bruins could use some help from their senior post men - Ryan Hollins and Michael Fey. But while it's already been announced that Hollins will miss another week, Fey is probable for the Cal game tomorrow.

Freshman power forward Alfred Aboya, who is still playing himself into shape and learning the system, played only 12 minutes against Stanford and will probably see more action against Cal especially if Fey is unavailable.

To negate Cal's front line advantage, the Bruins need to establish an up tempo game by having their guards run and create transition basket opportunities whenever possible.

The condition of Jordan Farmar's ankle takes on even more importance against Cal. Farmar injured his right ankle in the Stanford game and did not play the last part of the second half. Farmar remained on the bench and had his ankle re-taped but he did not re-enter the game.

Farmar's status for tomorrow's game has not been announced but the Bruins will definitely need their sophomore leader in the game to do well.

In addition, Darren Collison needs to rebound from a poor performance against Stanford. Collison scored no points, had eight assists but also committed five turnovers.

In previous games, it was Collison who jumped started the Bruins offense with his speed and quickness. He will be counted on heavily by his team against Cal.

Cal's team defense is somewhat suspect - in four games this year the Bears have allowed over 50% FG shooting. The Bears have experienced key defensive breakdowns in some of their losses this year.

On offense, Cal has had a tendency this year to rely too much on Leon Powe down the stretch leading to poor execution at the end of games.

The Bruin coaching staff will be keeping close tabs on Josh Shipp who will be playing in just his second game after returning from hip surgery.

Shipp had a fabulous game against Stanford scoring 11 points and creating good scoring opportunities for his teammates. The Bruins could use another stellar performance from Shipp against the Bears.

The Bruins and Golden Bears split their games last year with each winning on the opponent's home court.

Notes: The status of Cedric Bozeman's injured shoulder has not been determined. Bozeman was to be re-evaluated again today. Reports have indicated that Bozeman may be able to strengthen his shoulder to allow him to play again this year, or he may require season ending surgery.

Regardless of the finding, we shouldn't expect a quick decision on Bozeman's next step. This is Bozeman's final year so a decision to have surgery would ultimately end his college career unless he can get a waiver to redshirt - something Coach Howland has indicated he may pursue.



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